To embark on a sojourn of prayer is to follow God where ever He leads. Prayer is the deepest and highest work of the human spirit. As such, it is as Richard Foster speaks of it in his book The Celebration of Discipline, the “central avenue” through which God transforms us.
To follow God wherever He leads us is to know He desires to lead us deep into His heart. While God is Spirit, and as such has no physical heart, such an anthropomorphic way of thinking of Him is quite valid, for he has revealed His very image to us in the form of Jesus Christ – God made flesh.
Contemplative prayer or ‘centering’ prayer as it is often called, is not an intellectual endeavor. Instead, we seek to connect with God on a wholly spiritual level. To become still, as the psalmist says, and to know that He is God. In this manner of knowing we become aware of His presence in a very real way. We then become attentive to whatever He wants to reveal to us in our devoted time in prayer with Him.
By way of simple instruction, let me offer some simple steps to follow in order to engage the Divine Spirit of our Living God in such a form of quiet prayer:
- Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a sacred word that will function as your intention around which you seek to center your thoughts on God, and around which to listen to the Holy Spirit in whatever He wishes to reveal. Examples might be one of the following: faith, hope, love, joy, peace, rock, cross, mercy, compassion, grace It could be anything He reveals to you. When you hear from Him what the word is, you can be sure He wants to reveal something to you.
- Find a quiet place and comfortable posture which will help you relax and hear from God. You may even want to kneel or prostrate yourself before Him as an added intention of reverence. Remember, to worship God is an active verb, not just a passive thought of the heart and mind. Begin to quietly introduce your sacred word as you acknowledge God’s presence with you and His desire to work within you.
- Your thoughts may wander from time to time, this is completely natural to our humanity. When they do, simply speak your sacred word as a way of drawing you back to God as your central focus. Do not think of this as a quick or violent swing of your thoughts, but rather a gentle re-calling of your mind and centering on God.
- After a designated period (20 minutes is good but begin with less if you need to and work up to that) end your time of contemplative prayer with thoughts of thanksgiving for God’s divine presence with you. What a joy that the Creator of the Universe has opened His presence to you in such a real way; this is His great desire. He created you for fellowship with Him.
This form of prayer may be completely new to you. However, it is a very ancient form of prayer practiced by many of the great saints of the ages. Remember not to set any high expectations for yourself in your special time with God. He is the Master and He alone will deliver to you whatever He wants you to learn from such prayer. Your part is to simply ‘be’ in His presence and let Him lead as He will as you center yourself and your thoughts on Him.
“In a state of grace, the soul is like a well of limpid water, from which flow only streams of clearest crystal. Its works are pleasing both to God and man, rising from the River of Life, beside which it is rooted like a tree.”
St. Teresa of Avila
May the Lord add His blessing to these thoughts, offered here to His glory…
In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.